How Do You Market a MOOC?

Well, here’s a situation Harvard hasn’t had to deal with in a while: no one knows about it, or at least no one knows about its MOOCs.

A study last year found that less than one-quarter of the general public (i.e., those outside higher education) had heard of MOOCs and only 4% claimed to be very familiar with them. If one of the goals of MOOCs is to make money by catering to non-traditional student populations via verified certificates and course sequences, then MOOCs need a serious dose of marketing.

A new article for The Harvard Crimson outlines some of the ways HarvardX is attempting to reach its target audiences. Some of the ideas are typical modern digital marketing practices, such as using social media to engage specific populations. Others are quite innovative. For example, Elisa New, who developed two HarvardX poetry classes, had the Harvard men’s basketball team read a poem about basketball. She recorded a video of the performance and sent it to sports blog SB Nation.

Some other examples of creative MOOC marketing include Penn State’s Moocdemic and last year’s Canvas course “Society, Science, Survival: Lessons from AMC’s The Walking Dead.”

All in all, MOOCs may face something of an uphill battle in their attempt to reach new student populations.

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